'Wickedness' as retired man torches house after break-up
A RETIRED man whose wife left him after a 30-year relationship torched the house they owned.
Caboolture man Stephen John Ashen, 69, caused $8000 of damage to his former home.
He used an accelerant and left a gas cylinder near the ignition source in the October 2016 arson.
The fire charred a cabinet, wall and ceiling, Brisbane District Court was told on Friday.
Neighbours alerted the fire service soon after noticing the blaze about 8am.
Meanwhile, Ashen had called his former spouse to say he'd set fire to the house.
Firefighters broke down the door of the house and extinguished the fire.
Judge Michael Burnett called the arson an act of "wickedness”.
The judge said when Ashen retired he may have had too much time on his hands, and drank excessively.
Judge Burnett said Ashen had not appreciated how much these drinking habits upset his wife, and she left him.
"Your thinking had become muddled,” the judge told him.
Ashen's defence counsel said the retired man had several health problems, including possible cognitive impairment.
Ashen paid for the damage when the house was sold, from his share of the sale proceeds.
The 69-year-old had no previous criminal history.
Judge Burnett said any sentence had to deter others in the community from similar acts.
"People cannot simply go around [lighting fires from] revenge or some other misguided basis.”
The judge said at least when the arson happened, people nearby were "awake and alert”.
The timing of the arson and Ashen's early guilty plea earned him some credit.
Ashen was sentenced to three years' jail, suspended after nine months, operational for four years. - NewsRegional